Must Love Dogs: Local Artist Unleashes Your Creativity
Most of the folks who attend Jennifer Poncin's "Paint Your Pet's Portrait" events arrive full of doubt and fear. They are not painters, they tell her, and they never will be.
Poncin is unfazed.
"Tell me you can't paint," she said, "and I'll show you that you can."
And then, for the next two and a half hours she watches the pet lovers transform into artists.
"By the time they're finished, they're astounded," Poncin said. "They really surprise themselves, and they're so proud."
Later, the artists send Poncin photos of their pet portraits hanging prominently in their homes.
"This isn't something they want to hang in the garage," she said.
Poncin began offering the "Paint Your Pet" events about two years ago after a class she offered as a fundraiser was a howling success.
Now, she offers the class once a month at Max's Restaurant. The evening includes a painting playlist of fun tunes and delicious wine. Before the class, participants email Poncin clear, well-lit photos of their pets, and Poncin sketches them in pencil.
"There's a lot of detail in the sketch," Poncin said. "Sometimes they walk in, see the pencil sketch, and say, 'This is perfect! I'll take this!'"
But Poncin doesn't let them get away without picking up a paintbrush.
Most participants paint their beloved dogs, but every pet portrait is welcome. Poncin has sketched roosters, goats, fish, and even a gecko. She hopes to sketch a chameleon one day.
Don't have a pet? Spirit animals are welcome, too.
Poncin has been an artist her entire life, and she's always loved the way creating art lifts her spirit, and she hopes participants will experience that, too.
"Art brings your mind into a meditative state," she said. "You're very much in the moment. It's such a stress reliever."
As a busy, single mom with two teenage daughters, the Loomis resident knows how important it is to de-stress. She also understands the importance of giving back to her community, so when her class has at least 10 attendees, Poncin donates a portion of the proceeds to local nonprofits.
Poncin also offers private parties for everyone age 11 and older, and she especially enjoys working with seniors.
One of her favorite moments was helping an elderly man in her class who was struggling with a medical condition that caused him to shake. He was self-conscious and frustrated until Poncin worked with him. Together, they created a style of art that was all his own.
"By the end, he owned it," she said. "His whole demeanor changed. He really unleashed his creativity."
Poncin, who has a background in fashion design and currently works as a freelance graphic designer, keeps her classes small so that every participant is given time with her one-on-one.
Her goal is that everyone walks out of the class with something they love in their hands -- whether that's a painting of their pet iguana, a memory of a pup who's passed on, or a gift for a loved one.
"If I have to stay late with someone, long after everyone else is gone, I'm OK with that," Poncin said. "I'm not leaving until everyone is happy."